Madrid is also sangria city. So if only to be polite- I was happy to oblige. Like Barcelona, I have spent only a few days at a time in Madrid on a couple of occasions. There is much more to Madrid then I’m going to include, but here are the highlights from my trips; beyond the sangria and tapas. And once again, I don’t promise any facts, I would recommend a book for those things.
Guidebooks – We used the same Fodor’s Spain travel book that we used in Barcalona and were totally satisfied with it. There is always more to any destination then what’s in a tour book. If you’re a stranger in a new land a guidebook is a must have to get yourself started. For European travel my go-to are Foder Travel Books. – Fodor’s Spain served us well and I never felt the need for anything more, such as a city specific book.
Transportation – Driving is possible- but not fun or efficient and parking is expensive. Public transportation is clean, reasonably priced, and relatively easy to use. If you require handicap accessibility or stroller friendliness it was not as accommodating for those needs . Walking is the best option, but where you’re staying will decide if you are able to walk everywhere you need to go. Madrid was a much more affordable city to stay in compared to Barcelona and might make it more reasonable to stay within the city center.
Lodging – There are plenty of charming lodging options, unfortunately I can’t personally recommend any. I have only stayed at Accor Hotels; both in and outside the city. I was completely satisfied with the Accor Hotels we stayed at but would recommend staying within walking distance to the sites you would like to see. On my second stay I stayed at Ibis Madrid Centro and would definitely recommend it! I love Ibises and they deserve their own review. They are not a standard American hotel, they are very small and perfectly efficient. But make sure you are comfortable with what you are getting into; a shoebox sized hotel room with perfect efficiency.
Prado – Madrid’s Fine Arts Museum and possibly its best known sight. It’s a museum. A big museum. So you probably should go. It is the biggest sight in the city, but how much time you need is going to completely depend on how much you like museums. We went on a Sunday night which had free admission and was a perfect fit. — Should See
Museo Reina Sofia – Madrid’s Modern Art Museum, which is housed in a renovated hospital. It’s a modern art museum so it’s really a matter of taste. — If You Like Modern Art
Caixa Forum – A very small Museum in a renovated utility company building. We went mostly to check out the building but found ourselves surprised at how much we enjoyed the exhibit. If you have any architectural interest this is a must do, otherwise there are other things that you should probably tackle first. — Architect Must See, Everyone Else Maybe
Royal Botanical Gardens – A nice break from the city for a walk, but if you’re tight on time not a must do. If you do see the gardens though make sure you don’t miss the green house. — If Time Allows
The Royal Palace – Which formerly housed the King and Queen, who have since moved to (marginally) simpler living. I think it is still used for functions on occasions. It’s one of the big sites to see and interesting (but Europe has lots of Palaces and I wouldn’t go to Madrid just for this). — Should See
Mercado de San Miguel – I was initially taken back at how new the market was and was skeptical of the recommendation from the guidebook. However, after walking through the stalls, taking in all the food, and trying a few new things we were very impressed by the gourmet quality of everything. I also fell in love with the atmosphere as we watched the locals wander the market with a glass of wine, catching up with friends and colleagues. There were places to grab a small bite to eat designed to be eaten while walking. If they wanted something more they stopped at a stall with a standing bar, pointed to something under the glass, ate it standing, and moved on with wine in hand. — If you like trying different food this is a Must See
FAVORITES – Walk, Eat, Drink!!!
I have done two short stays in Madrid and enjoyed my first trip, but fell in love on my second trip. It may seem a little strange because my Madrid wrap-up was not full of must see sights. What I fell in love with was just walking Madrid, taking in each small street and square. I have talked about this in Barcelona as well, it is just as appealing in Madrid if not more. That’s probably why it took my second visit to fall in love with Madrid. On my first stay we were a little outside the city and had to take the metro to and from the hotel, on my second stay I was on the outskirts of the center of the city. I was still close enough to walk to everything, but on a small quaint street.